Archive for ‘reviews’

December 7, 2010

LUSH Herbalism: a rambling review

Hello, Mr. Bump! He sits on my desk and watches me pretend to work. (I’m pretending to work now. Shh, don’t tell anyone.) Sometimes he gets bumped by my notes. Such trials and tribulations has he! Right now, he is beaming down at my new Lush stash; my regime for happy skin.

The weather is getting more humid, which means that my skin stops behaving. I suspect it’s trying to be nice and give me a lovely summery glow, but I just end up looking like a bad impersonation of a headlight. With blackheads.

Sadly, this means an on-and-off hiatus from part of my skincare regime for about five months. And it’s my favourite part, too: Lush’s Angels on Bare Skin, which I wrote about here. In the cooler months, I use Angels on Bare Skin almost every day, going to Aqua Marina when my skin needs a break from Angels on Bare Skin. Now that summer is here, though, Aqua Marina takes the place of Angels on Bare Skin, and I use Herbalism once or twice a week, particularly on the days I happen to wear makeup.

My, that sounded complicated, but it’s really not.

I know that quite a few people complain about the expiry dates when it comes to Lush’s cleansers (they officially last three months, but I’ve found that they’re good for a bit longer than that), but I find that the short expiry dates let me play around and tweak my skincare regime as required, without having lots of half-empty bottles lying around my bathroom. I’m on my last dribs and drabs of Angels on Bare Skin, and have just bought a fresh pot of Aqua Marina and Herbalism to last me till April. And by April, I’ll probably need Angels on Bare Skin, so it all works out terribly neatly.

I love it when things work out terribly neatly. I also like it when my lunch boxes are more or less the exact size for whatever food I’m bringing. Those moments are, in a word, awesome. It’s like efficiency in a little effortless tub; an illusion of natural precision and efficacy, like how God made bananas to fit our fingers.

So I’m now armed with my terribly neat, terribly efficient, terribly Holy Banana-like skincare.  This is what the contents look like:

…Basically like the Lush stock pictures, actually, except my Herbalism is all powdery and clumpy and theirs sticks together in a tidy little roll.

(Oh my god, it looks like I’m growing mouldy scone flour in the Herbalism tub 0.0.)

I’ve written about Aqua Marina before, so this post will focus mainly on Herbalism. Which smells really strange, by the way. I always find it difficult to switch from Angels on Bare Skin to Herbalism. Angels on Bare Skin smells… earthy, a little lavender-y, generally inoffensive.


Herbalism smells like vinegar on crack. And then the vinegar ran out of crack and attacked your herb garden with a particular vendetta against sage.

The stuff smells weird.

But it works quite well to control oil. The Lush website has this description:

When you see this you may question our claim that our new skincare products are the most beautiful we have ever made, but once you use it you will understand. Herbalism is named after the powdered herbs which give it a dark green colour and which also give it the power to keep your skin calm and free of irritation. We use cleansing nettle, which is full of vitamins, chamomile for its soothing properties and astringent rosemary to tone the skin. China clay gently cleanses away excess oil and a gentle exfoliating mix of ground almonds and rice bran keeps your skin fresh. We make this wash for more oily skin which is difficult to keep clear; use it and you’ll find that it makes a big difference. (100g lasts for ages as you only need a fingertip-full each time you wash with it.)












Darn tootin’ I’m questioning your claim re. beauty. Every summer, when I open the tub after a long holiday away from Herbalism, I wonder precisely why I think the stuff works. It looks like crumbled Hulk. (Which, okay, is kind of awesome because that would be rather amusing.)

As with most Lush cleansers, Herbalism is a bit fiddly to use. You need to grab a little pea-sized amount, mush it in a few droplets of water to create a paste, and then put the stuff on your face. It’s moderately exfoliating but not intensely so (although I am a shower-violence kind of person when it comes to scrubbies, so don’t trust my judgment completely), and zaps most of the oil from my skin — enough so that I’m not a walking glowstick, but not so much that my skin feels (worryingly) squeaky-clean.

As per usual with skincare and cosmetics, YMMV. I’ve heard of people breaking out from Herbalism; I’ve also heard of Herbalism being the Holy Grail of skincare. If you are curious, Lush is generally very good at handing out samples and doing demonstrations, so do give it a whirl. It may smell rather strange at first, but you will probably get accustomed to it after regular use.

December 4, 2010

Pretty procrastination

I love that blogs are simultaneously private and public, in that you know a great deal about me even though I (more than likely) have never met you. My Honours class has never seen me do the Kenya dance. I doubt they ever will, because I’m not really prone to doing such things in real-time. I’m really rather boring in real life.

I’m meant to be drafting an article for publication in an academic journal (FIRST ARTICLE EVERRRRR WHEEEEE! —although publication isn’t guaranteed, but WHEEEEE! nonetheless) but I don’t know how. I’ve never done this in my life. I can do it, I think, I just… can’t get started. Instead, I’ve cleaned my room instead. And done my nails (albeit two different colours, because I’m swatching), and now I’m about to watch Futurama.

I suck  at working. Please, scholarship-people-if-you-give-me-a-scholarship, please don’t take it away from me. I’ll earn the money. When you start paying me.

I could use the money, too. All I really want (okay, amongst other things) at the moment is a new bottle of Miss Dior Cherie, because all my bottles are now completely and utterly out.

Miss Dior Cherie is my favourite perfume. It’s a mainstream fragrance, and quite a popular one, I think. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that its popularity made me second-guess my decision to make it my signature perfume because, well, really, a good perfume is a good perfume, whether or not it’s loved by the masses.

Quite a few reviews just put it as another fruity floral, which it is, and it isn’t. I find perfume reviews difficult to understand, actually, because skin chemistry changes the way a fragrance blooms that… well, it’s impossible to deem a scent ‘bad’ because it might just work on someone else. Burberry Brit smells like garbage bin juice on Valerie but smells fine on quite a few people, I’m sure; and Valerie’s Comme des Garcons Wonderwood runs an amazingly woody gamut on her wrist, ending on a spicy incense, but sits on boring non-committal woods on me (and then somehow pulls a strange sweet muskiness out of the air, which is a bit baffling as there are no really sweet musky notes).

Miss Dior Cherie, for me, is a caricature in a bottle. It’s hyperreal in its femininity: not conventional femininity itself but an amazingly exaggerated version of it.

On the first spray, it feels like red-coloured toffee being melted in a deeply gleaming golden bowl, or candied flowers sitting atop a giant cake of warm butter icing. These, mind, aren’t the notes; officially, you’re smelling mandarin and strawberry leaf and perhaps some caramel popcorn, although I get more sugary caramel than the nuttiness of popped corn kernels.



And then there’s the slightest hit of patchouli, not terribly earthy but sweet and clean, made sweeter by the abandoned sticks of toffee and apple cores. It dries down to a warm, enveloping powdery musk on me — like the fall of a skirt after it’s been twirling; that mad, whirling tizzyness ending in a soft fold of silk.

by the ever amazing Tim Walker

Miss Dior Cherie is synthetic to its last note but it’s a synthetic quality that I quite enjoy — a scent that says, ‘let’s pretend’ and throws open its boxes of spangled dress-up clothing, normal tattered rags dyed in funny clashing colours. There’s something really awesome about conscious artificiality, particularly artificial femininity, in a bottle.

Usual plug: I’m holding a giveaway: three bottles of Ulta3 nail polish and one adorned-with-bits-and-pieces Moleskine. All you have to do is leave me a comment on this linked post before December 12!

December 1, 2010

Bottled images

I mentioned in my last post that Valerie and I went to Mecca Cosmetica — again. I’ve been slowly sampling most of the fragrances there, and I’m developing a fondness for Serge Lutens. It’s quite a bittersweet fondness, though, because I think Lutens fragrances are really rather playful but somehow turn a bit generic on me. I think my skin chemistry brings out a musky sweetness in most perfumes, even in ones that aren’t really all that sweet to begin with.

I tried Chypre Rouge on one arm and Lutens’ latest ‘anti-perfume’, L’Eau. Chypre Rouge turned predictably sweetly musk on the dry-down on me, although I think there was an interesting fruity tang now and then. It’s a beautiful fragrance, I think, but ultimately quite forgettable — it’s already faded as I write this and I can’t really remember it.

L’Eau, on the other hand, has stuck with me a bit. I believe there are more interesting anti-perfumes on the market (like Commes des Garcons’ Odeur 71 and Odeur 53) but I’m quite fond of this one, even though it’s been described as a ‘giant box of laundry powder for $200’. People have found it quite linear or, at least, reminiscent of only one or two things: fresh laundry, and showers.


In the bottle and on paper, it smells like ironing. Like the impression of ironing: steam rising from cleaned sheets. It doesn’t smell like laundry detergent as such nor an obviously soapy smell, which I liked quite a bit. It smells cool and fresh. It actually does smell… clean.

On me, it seemed to take quite the journey. I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t take on the coolness that was suggested on the tester paper. It started with a sweet, citrus warmth, which made me just think my skin chemistry had turned an interesting perfume into the usual lemony stuff of mainstream ‘clean’ fragrances.

About fifteen minutes later, though, it shifted rather dramatically. The citrus notes had disappeared and I got the impression that I was smelling mildly scented laundry powder, which doesn’t sound all that flash now that I write it — but it was interesting to see it turn rather cool after the opening warmer notes.

By Dahliyani Briedis

Throughout the day, L’Eau kept morphing into something else. It was as though I was cleaning something myself. The laundry powder turned to wet sheets in the washing machine; to the faintly metallic smell of the dryer; to the dustiness of sunny spaces; and then to the sweet and fresh coolness of clean sheets. But it didn’t end there — all of a sudden I was smelling the crisp synthetic freshness of room spray, which turned back to the scent of clean sheets and then moved to the metallic warmth and nothingness of iron steam.

And then the scent moved away from the household and onto the person: it was a musky skin-scent; like clean, scrubbed skin without a hint of soap. It definitely wasn’t the sparkling cleanliness that characterised the notes of the first few movements — more like a soft, enveloping sense of clean, like bubble baths and white pillows. Like cuddling after showers, if you want to be fluffy.

And this skin-scent lasted for quite a while, wavering slightly back and forth between laundry-fresh and skin-fresh, as though I were swathed in my clean linens or had just donned a collared white shirt.

If Lutens’ aim was to guide the wearer through various concepts of ‘clean’, I think he did it extremely well. I haven’t had such clear visuals from a fragrance since Comme des Garcons’ Dover Street Market (tar! Smoke! Road! —It’s awesome) and, unlike many of Lutens’ creations, this scent seems to be remarkably playful on my skin. For a ‘clean’ scent, it is remarkably good — not groundbreaking, not breathtaking, but it did what it set out to accomplish with finesse.

And after years of wearing Christian Dior’s Miss Dior Cherie, it’s nice to break the heady sweetness with such a subtle palate-cleanser. As I have a signature scent, I can’t imagine shelling out the $200 for a bottle — but I suspect a few sample/miniature sizes will find their way into my perfume drawer rather soon.